Facebook has been revamping with the speed and intensity of a traditional revamping master, in its constant battle to beat out Google for “total number of users pissed off by free services.”
1. Change something
2. Don’t change anything
However, Facebook and Google are leviathans in the world of giving away services to angry people, and their investors expect each of them to not only compete in the irate-freeloader market, but to dominate it. Conventional wisdom holds that only one company can acquire, retain and annoy enough users to survive and eventually enrage a new generation of consumers who demand perfection, free of charge.
“Make no mistake,” said the head of Facebook’s Department of Fictional Public Relations. “We are here to stay. We won’t rest until every person on earth with an internet connection is posting to Facebook about how much Facebook sucks.”
Google’s Head of Apocryphal Statements countered, saying, “Google has one thing Facebook doesn’t: our mantra, ‘Don’t be evil.’ That philosophy guarantees that people will go completely puppy-slappingly berserk whenever we do anything even slightly dubious. It’s that resentment that will carry us into the 22nd century.”
While the two companies have the same goal, their approaches are very different.
Facebook, ever the traditionalist, prefers the time-tested approach of making constant changes that range from the inexplicably superficial to the confoundingly substantial. By keeping users in a constant state of agitation, and simultaneously providing them with a place to express that agitation, Facebook maintains its huge base of extremely unsatisfied users. It’s a system that has worked for many organizations, from EverQuest to the Democratic Party.
Google, on the other hand, takes a more-subtle path, combining the steady introduction of new features with troubling end-user policies. The company’s theory is that by introducing features at a more careful pace, it can upset users who are impatient to see improvements as well as users who hate change — demographics that overlap more often than you might think. Meanwhile, by instituting opaque rules and draconian consequences concerning real names, Google aggravates privacy activists while simultaneously preventing the sort of fun fictional accounts that might distract people from their anger.
Meanwhile, former media darling Twitter is suffering from widespread lack of discontent among its users, and the company is left grasping for fresh new ways to irritate consumers. While service outages and confusing changes kept users enraged and engaged for a while, Twitter’s recent dust-up with developers barely raised the blogosphere’s blood pressure, and the microblogging service was forced to discontinue the policy in the face of white-hot indifference.
‘People on the internet are a bunch of crabby moochers.’
To quote from a groundbreaking 2006 paper on the economics of the internet, published in the prestigious Journal of Groundbreaking Economics Papers, “People on the internet are a bunch of crabby moochers, like seriously.”
If Twitter can’t give these people something to complain about, they’ll depart for grayer pastures, leaving the company with only those users who are satisfied with a reliable, useful service that doesn’t charge a cent. In other words, nearly nobody.
If it’s true that money can’t buy happiness, it’s equally true that happiness doesn’t bring in much money. Especially on the web.
Image: Sean MacEntee/Flickr
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Born helpless, naked and unable to provide for himself, Lore Sjöberg overcame these obstacles to become a malcontent, a malefactor and a malamute.